The bottom of the Montreal Canadians The Top 25 Under 25 is always a mix of players who are playing out their time on the reserve list, new prospects who are trying to work their way to a pro contract, and players who are working their way to the next step in the NHL.
It may be a place where history begins for some players, including the most recent success stories of Jake Evans and Cayden Primeau, who have played key roles for the organization at the professional level. For others, their time with the Canadiens organization will end here.
Last year’s roster included Michael Pezzetta, who made his NHL debut that season, among several players who moved up this year’s roster. The current group also includes someone who has already played an NHL game.
Notes: In the voting charts for this article and all articles in this series, the “EOTP” vote is the average rank of the hundreds of community votes. Members “black61” and “theptbnl” are also listed along with nine EOTP staff members.
52. Arvid Henrikson – Defense – 24 – Lake Superior State University
The bet on the 6’3” Swede on the seventh day of 2016 NHL Draft it didn’t pay off like it did with others taken in that range, including Evans and Primeau. Henrikson had his best season in the NCAA last season, with five assists in 35 games at Lake Superior State University. He is entering his senior season but is still looking for the first goal from him.
Henrikson may have a future in professional hockey ahead of him, but when he enters his final year of eligibility for this list, it won’t be in Montreal.
51. Alexander Gordon – Forward – 21 – Hong Kong Sochi
Perhaps a combination of the uncertainty surrounding Russian players and a lack of success saw Gordin drop 22 places in this year’s ranking. After two years at No. 27 and No. 29, his drop may also be the result of a much stronger and deeper prospect pool.
Gordin played most of last season in the MHL, the Russian youth league. He had 12 goals in 30 games plus eight assists, but it was his least productive season when he was among the oldest players in the league. He too was traded from SKA Saint Petersburg to HC Sochi, moving from a top club to a smaller club in the KHL.
The Canadiens’ 2020 sixth-round pick made his KHL debut, scoring one goal in 14 games. A good season in that league can see him make another push up this ranking.
fifty Jack Smith – Forward – 20 – University of Minnesota-Duluth
After being a fourth-round pick in 2020, Smith has seen his stock drop in the eyes of the panel. He drops a further 10 places on this year’s list, but passed Gordin. Smith has yet to make his NCAA debut, which was expected last year, but the pandemic affected the number of players who stayed at the school.
Last year in the USHL he scored two goals and an assist in 10 games. With a strong season this year, his value still has time to rise.
49. Jack Gornyak – Forward – 22 – University of Wisconsin
Gorniak is another player at this end of the list who sees a drop of more than 10 places from a year ago. He will enter his fifth year of NCAA eligibility as a graduate student, thanks to the NCAA allowing COVID-impacted student-athletes an extra season. Gorniak was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and had five goals and 10 assists in 37 games last season.
He will likely need to take a significant step to secure an NHL contract with the Canadiens, and with the depth of the group it seems pretty unlikely at this point.
48. emmett croteau – Goalie – 18 – Clarkson University
Croteau was the Canadiens’ sixth-round pick (162nd overall) in the 2022 NHL Draft, and is the lowest-ranked player of the 18 who debuted on the list this year. The 6-foot-4 goalie had an .899 save percentage in 35 USHL games, but improved to .913 in six postseason games. With a limited track record, he will have every opportunity to move up this list. In fact, he is the same path that Cayden Primeau, Frederik Dichow, Jakub Dobes and Joe Vrbetic have taken in recent years after meeting at this level.
The success that those other goalies can show the Canadians has been successful with these last-round picks, but that can work against him as he will always be judged against him.
47. daniil sobolev – Defense – 19 – Windsor Spitfires
Sobolev debuted on this list at No. 31 a year ago, but sees a steep drop in his second year. In his draft year, he did not play due to the closure of the Ontario Hockey League that coincided with his arrival in North America from Russia. He took advantage of that year to skate and work with trainers on his own.
In his first season in the OHL, he didn’t have the offensive numbers to maintain his higher ranking. He had two goals and 15 assists in 62 regular season games, and had two assists in 24 playoff games as the Spitfires reached the OHL finals. It’s hard to get a read on most of the 2021 Draft Class, and Sobolev will have to show signs of improvement as he gets older.
46. Brett Stapley – Forward – 23 – University of Denver
Stapley has the biggest drop on this year’s list, dropping 23 places from his place inside the Top 25 last year, at No. 23. In his senior season, he set career highs in goals with 18 and points with 43 in 41 games. . So why did a player with more than one point per game fall so steeply down the rankings? Well, because it seems unlikely that he will sign a contract with the Canadiens.
Due to the NCAA rule change, he was eligible for a fifth NCAA season, which would have given the Canadiens another year of his rights. It’s it seems that you have not taken that optionhowever, and those rights have expired.
Stapley is a smaller forward, and there are plenty of them in the Canadiens organization. He has talent and we will see if he can win a contract with another club.
Four. Five. Dmitry Kostenko – 19 – Defense – Khimik Voskresensk (BVS)
Clearly being too good for the MHL, the defenseman was moved to the VHL to play in Russia’s second league, which was a good move for the 87th pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. While Kostenko’s play was enough to play at that level, I was more or less third team when it came to Russia’s U20/WJC program. He has some tools: he’s big, he skates well for his size and he can shoot and pass the power play, but the downside is that he reads the game slowly.
The combination of the Russian situation with a game that is not up to date has seen Kostenko drop 17 places in this year’s ranking.
44. petteri nurmi – 20 – Defense – HPK (League)
An interesting late-round pick with a positive track record from Finland debuts at 44th in this year’s ranking.
The big safety-first defender has slowly but steadily risen through the Finnish system. Last season he played both in Metis (the second division) and in the Liiga, where he played most of his games. The Canadiens scouting team praised his ability to transition from the puck and play in the first division as a Junior player also drew attention.
The vote took place before the juniors of the world this year, and it would have been interesting to see how the tournament would have affected his ranking. Although he started the tournament as one of the best defenders in Finland, he missed the last few matches.
Entering his second year in the top Finnish league will give him a chance to move up the order.
43. lucas condotta – Left Wing – 23 – Laval Rocket
Condotta’s ranking might be a bit lower due to the fact that he wasn’t in the early ballots, but in the general scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t have been enough to knock him out of this rank.
After finishing his season with UMass-Lowell in the NCAA, he was assigned to the Laval Rocket where he made his professional debut with one assist in seven regular games before becoming a regular in the postseason. He played 10 playoff games with two goals and two assists and didn’t look out of place.
With an offseason to work things out and a full pro season, Condotta will look to cement a spot in Rocket’s lineup and potentially move up the depth chart.
42. jared-davidson – Forward – 20 – Seattle Thunderbirds
In his third year of NHL Draft eligibility, Davidson finally heard his name in 2022. Davidson came on strong for the Thunderbirds, who reached the WHL Finals against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
After 19 points in 23 games during the shortened COVID-19 season, he exploded in 2021-22 with 42 goals and 47 assists in 64 games. He added 13 goals and 16 assists in 25 WHL playoff games. Both led the team, and his 89 points in the regular season were 23 more than any other member of the team.
How you feel about him as a prospect, and his track record, will depend on whether his last season in the WHL was just because he was one of the older players in the league or there was significant development in his game.
41. cam hillis – Forward – 22 – Laval Rocket
Hillis played at three different levels last season, and in the process became the first member of the ECHL’s Lions de Trois-Rivières to play in an NHL game. Hillis played one game when the Canadiens were hit hard by COVID-19.
Entering his third full professional season, he has yet to establish himself at the AHL level, though there are clear signs of improvement. He scored nine points in 14 ECHL games and the same number of points in 24 AHL games, both career highs.
He fell in part because of his lackluster production in the minor leagues, but also because he’s in danger of being lost among the slew of skilled prospects the organization now has.
Cracking the Canadiens roster like a regular would be an impressive feat for any of these prospects. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at 10 players who have slightly more projectable potential in the organization.